The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has advised Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on legal reforms aimed at addressing discrimination in private schools. 

The ALRC says laws allowing private schools to discriminate against students and teachers for their sexual orientation or gender identity should be cut. 

The recommendations call for a more nuanced balance between prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and allowing religious schools to maintain their faith-based identity.

The ALRC recommends the repeal of legal protections that currently permit private schools to discriminate against students and teachers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy. 

This proposed change targets sections of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, specifically advocating for the removal of Section 38, which provides broad exceptions for religious educational institutions, and the amendment of Section 37, to limit its scope. 

The ALRC says the intent is to ensure that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is not legally sanctioned under the guise of religious freedom.

Furthermore, the government commission proposes an overhaul of workplace relations laws to refine the criteria under which religious schools can select staff and students. 

These changes are aimed at allowing schools to preferentially hire or admit individuals who adhere to the institution's faith, provided such preferences are reasonably necessary to maintain a community of faith. 

This approach seeks to strike a balance by ensuring that faith-based schools can uphold their religious identity while not infringing on the rights of individuals protected under the Sex Discrimination Act.

The recommendations come in a politically sensitive environment, underscored by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's appeal for bipartisan support to avoid further polarising debates on religious freedoms. 

The ALRC's advice aligns with Australia's international legal obligations, advocating for a legal framework that maximises the realisation of human rights while ensuring consistency with state and territory laws.